This artist's conception shows the newly discovered alien planet also Known as OGLE-2014-BLG-0124Lb , which is about 13,000 light-years from Earth.
Astronomers have found an exoplanet nearly 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known to man. This discovery is important not because of the planet itself, a gas giant about half the size of Jupiter, but because what it means for the future of planetary discovery and mapping.
"For context, most of the planets we do know about are a factor of 10-100 times closer than OGLE-2014-BLG-0124," Dr. Jennifer Yee, a NASA Sagan Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge
Far, far away.
The microlensing technique has helped astronomers discover about 30 distant alien planets in our Milky Way's bulge, the galaxy's central area of mostly old stars, gas, and dust.
The farthest known exoplanet resides some 25,000 light years away in the bulge of our galaxy, Yee said in the email. The bulge is a very different environment from the Milky Way's disk, where our own solar system is located.
According to Yee, no exoplanets have been found outside of our galaxy, which spans about 100,000 light years.
This artist's map of the Milky Way shows the location of some of the farthest known exoplanets, including OGLE-2014-BLG-0124Lb.
Comparing planets to planets. Astronomers hope not only to gain a better understanding of the distribution of planets in the Milky Way, but also to gather enough detail about distant planets to compare them with those closer to Earth. More than 1,000 exoplanets closer to home have been discovered by the planet-hunting Kepler mission and ground-based observatories, Space.com reported.
"We would really like to know whether planets form in the central bulge of our galaxy the same way that they do here, near the sun, where the overwhelming majority of planets have been found," Dr. Andrew Gould, professor of math and physical sciences at Ohio State University, and a co-author of the paper describing the newfound exoplanet, told The Huffington Post.
The Christian Science Monitor reported that the Spitzer telescope is scheduled to observe about 120 more "microlensing" events this summer, which could lead to the discovery of even more distant exoplanets.
This infographic explains how NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope can be used in tandem with a ground-based telescope to measure the distances to planets using the "microlensing" technique.